1973 BSA B50 | The Bike That Changed My Life

Photography by Shelby Lewis

RIDER: Chuck Lewis
THEN: 18-year-old watercraft mechanic
NOW: Architect

“One day I saw a photo of John Banks, the English Motocross Champion, flying through the air on his mighty BSA 500 single. A week later there was a ’73 BSA B50 in the back of my ’50 Chevy pickup. While loading the bike, the salesman gave me some sage advice: Follow the starting procedure precisely.

“The business end of a B50 kickstart lever is nothing to mess with. Follow the procedure precisely or it will bite you. Never forget the shift lever is on the right, and the brake pedal on the left. Beyond that, the BSA would go up any trail I had the nerve to tackle. Lightweight? Nope. Fast? On the top end. Reliable? Contrary to popular belief, the B50 never once stranded me in the woods.

“Now, I have four bikes: a 2004 Triumph Sprint RS, a ’74 Yamaha RD350, a Honda VTX cruiser and that old BSA, beautifully restored. I don’t ride the B50 anymore. Kickstarting hasn’t gotten any easier. I like to just look at it in the garage, remembering the adventures through the east Tennessee hollows that my riding buddies and I enjoyed.

“I do street ride whenever possible, though. The guys at work are amazed that an old ‘silverback’ like me still loves to ride. Timothy Leary summed it up best: “Beware the lollypop of mediocrity; one lick and you will suck forever.”

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